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ISSNAF awards 2021 best young Italian Researchers in the USA

The Foundation’s annual event was opened by Ambassador Mariangela Zappia, and with a message from the Italian Minister of University and Research Maria Cristina Messa. The awardees were Ferdinando Fioretto, Francesco Monticone, Matteo Muratori, Giulia Riccò and Daniele Simoneschi. The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Silvio Micali.

Washington DC, December 10, 2021 – A tie that continues to develop and grow stronger with the work and research of many young researchers in the fields of science and humanities. This is the bond between Italy and the United States which was celebrated during the annual event of ISSNAF, the foundation that brings together thousands of Italian scientists and academics working in laboratories, universities and research centers in North America.

The event was held on December 9, 2021, in a virtual format, in collaboration with the Embassy of Italy in Washington, and under the High Patronage of the President of the Republic. Ambassador Mariangela Zappia opened the proceedings, and was followed by a video message by the Italian Minister of University and Research, Maria Cristina Messa. During the event, the winners of the five awards of this edition’s Young Investigator Awards were announced: Matteo Muratori for the Embassy of Italy Award, Giulia Riccò for the RnB4Culture Award, Daniele Simoneschi for the Paola Campese Award, Ferdinando Fioretto for the Mario Gerla Award and Francesco Monticone for the Franco Strazzabosco Award. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Silvio Micali.

“Promoting the international aspect of higher education and research is one of our priorities,” said Minister Maria Cristina Messa in her remarks. “It will be of strategic importance, also in light of the opportunities presented by the RRP [Recovery and Resilience Plan], to strengthen and expand bilateral relations and institutional agreements between Italian and U.S. universities and research centers, leveraging shared projects and the increased mobility of researchers and academics. ISSNAF’s role in this process will be key”.

“Italy and the United States enjoy an exceptional collaboration in scientific research and technology. ISSNAF is an incredibly valuable tool to further strengthen this partnership” noted Ambassador Zappia in her opening remarks, thanking the ISSNAF leadership and congratulating Prof. Silvio Micali and this year’s five young finalists.

The annual event was the capstone of a year of ISSNAF growth and further strengthening. In 2021, the Foundation reinforced ties with Italy via a series of agreements (including with the University of Pisa, the Collegio Ghislieri of Pavia and the Polytechnic of Turin) on mentoring and research experiences, starting next year, for masters’ and doctoral students from Italy at research centers in North America.

“Our goal is to assist in Italy’s commitment to enhance the international aspect of higher education and research by facilitating the placement of Italian trainees at universities and research and development centers in North America, thus providing professional enrichment experiences,” said ISSNAF President Cinzia Zuffada. “Our programs support the development of a new generation, in Italy, of broad minded researchers and research managers who, enriched by their North American professional experience, will be able to operate more effectively in the Italian ecosystem.”

Silvio Micali – 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award 2021

Silvio Micali was awarded the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award, ISSNAF’s “lifetime achievement prize”. Professor Micali teachers computer science at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT Boston, is the founder of Algorand and one of the world’s leading experts on cryptography and blockchain. The award was presented by Alberto Salleo, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford and ISSNAF Board.

“I am greatly honored, as an Italian and as an American, to receive this award” said Silvio Micali in his brief lecture. “It is a special recognition, because it comes from a community that shares two experiences with me that have defined my life: a passion for knowledge and a career built straddling two continents. Italy has played a great role in the growth of America from the start: Italian scientists from the most diverse fields have exported the Italian spirit and contributed to building a better America, as part of a better world.”

Roundtable on “Food and safeguarding the planet”

ISSNAF’s annual event focused on issues related to global sustainability, the subject of the Embassy of Italy award, and the main focus of a round table on “Food System Transformation for Global Sustainability”. Prof. Fiorenza Micheli (Stanford), Prof. Amilcare Porporato (Princeton) and Sara Roversi (Future Food Institute) took the floor, and the event was moderated by Federico Rampini (correspondent for Corriere della Sera). Climate change and global population growth prompt us to reflect on the adaptation strategies we need to consider in order to safeguard our planet and allow everyone to adequately meet their nutritional needs. One of the issues which was discussed was the role that oceans will play in food production in comparison to land, where agricultural and livestock processes will need to be changed and adapted to ongoing climate change. The roundtable also addressed aspects of communication, education, and involvement of communities and decision-making bodies in developing shared sustainability policies.

Young Investigator Awards 2021

There are five categories in this 2021 edition: the Embassy of Italy Award for researchers working on issues related to sustainability in the field of materials, energy and industrial and agricultural processes; the Paola Campese Award for research on hematological malignancies; the Franco Strazzabosco Award for engineering; the Mario Gerla Award for research in computer sciences and the newly-instated RnB4Culture Award for innovation in studies on Italian culture. The awards were presented by the respective Award Chairs and ISSNAF Scientific Council members, Professors: Riccardo Dalla-Favera (Columbia), for the Paola Campese Award; Marcello Romano (Naval Postgraduate School), for the Franco Strazzabosco Award; Elisa Bertino (Purdue University), for the Mario Gerla Award; Daniela Barile (University of California at Davis), for the Embassy of Italy Award; and Claudio Fogu (University of California at Santa Barbara) for the Rnb4Culture Award.

Spotlight on the winners

Embassy of Italy Award: Matteo Muratori, from Milan, works at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in Golden (Colorado) and is Chief Analyst for Sustainable Transportation at the Department of Energy. He studies the best technologies and solutions to achieve a sustainable energy transition in the transport sector, and to predict its impact on the rest of the global energy system.

RnB4Culture Award: Giulia Riccò, originally from Vignola in the province of Modena, is an Italianist and lecturer at the University of Michigan, where she studies the birth of Italian identity in the communities that emigrated to Latin America.

Paola Campese Award: Daniele Simoneschi, from Rome, is a Research Assistant Professor at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, where he studies an enzyme that can prevent the hyper-proliferation of cells that leads to tumor formation.

Mario Gerla Award: Ferdinando Fioretto, originally from San Severo in Puglia, Italy, is a professor at Syracuse University, where he applies artificial intelligence to improve large-scale infrastructures, such as those for electricity distribution, to prevent waste and reduce environmental impact.

Franco Strazzabosco Award: Francesco Monticone from Novara, is an electronic engineer and a professor at Cornell University, where he studies photons and metamaterials, those materials that do not exist in nature but can be designed on a micro- and nano-scale.

ISSNAF – Italian Scientists and Scholars in North America Foundation

Founded in 2007 under the auspices of the Italian Embassy in Washington DC by 36 prominent Italian scientists and scholars in North America, among them four Nobel Prize recipients, ISSNAF is a non-profit organization that promotes cooperation in science, academia and technology between Italian researchers and scholars working in North America and the world of pure and applied research in Italy. With over 3,000 affiliates, ISSNAF represents the Italian intellectual diaspora in North America, and is as a bridge connecting the two sides of the Atlantic, enabling the sharing and enhancement of a priceless heritage of knowledge and identity. In its activities, ISSNAF collaborates with other organizations and foundations, institutions and government agencies, including the Italian Embassy, the Consular network and the Italian Cultural Institutes in the United States and Canada.

The event’s program and recordings are available here: